There’s a great irony embedded in modern Jewish cuisine: Although it has taut apron-string ties to the home kitchen, some of its most iconic foods aren’t often prepared there. Bagels, lox, pastrami—these are the province of delicatessens, bakeries and “appetizing” shops. It takes an ambitious amateur cook to take on such titans of the Yiddish pantry, and an equally ambitious book to guide his or her hands. To that end, consider The Mile End Cookbook, whose authors, Noah and Rae Bernamoff, are pioneers in the recent wave of nouveau Jewish restaurants. You’ll find their endearing story in these pages, told through sometimes-mellow, sometimes-manic recollections, touching paeans to the Bernamoff brood, and essays from Brooklyn luminaries like butcher Tom Mylan and pickler Bob McClure. But the real allure is those recipes—eminently usable, with smart and personal introductions—which function as a sort of Jewish cultural road map. Witness the reanimation of Eastern European foodstuffs in candid, step-by-step guides to making salt-cured lox, poached gefilte fish or Mile End’s beloved smoked meat at home. There are pickled lamb tongues, potato latkes, braided challahs and—in a time-honored tradition of scrap-saving—infinite ways to rework these pleasures into sandwiches, brunch dishes and other second-day delights. Whether or not this stuff makes you homesick, it will certainly make you hungry, so plan ahead: Some of the more intricate recipes require forethought—that smoked meat takes two weeks to make, from brine to table.
The Mile End Cookbook
The team behind Montreal-inflected deli Mile End (and its sister, Mile End Sandwich) offer a fresh take on Jewish cuisine.